She may be a villainous, butch war vet in the afternoon, only to morph into a graceful and glamorous otherworldly woman of mystery in the evening. In the past she’s been a barroom whore, a sideshow attraction worthy of American Horror Story, a tin woman and a steel magnolia. Regan Linton is a woman of many faces. Only 33, this T4 para has performed all of the aforementioned roles on professional stages.
But getting to this point in her life hasn’t been easy. It has been a process of gradual transformation, of finding out just who Regan Linton is.
She began acting in middle school about the time her parents were splitting up. “I was also navigating lots of female body image issues,” she recalls, “and acting allowed me to be someone else.” Later, in high school, when forced to choose between theater and sports, acting and singing won.
Upon graduation she applied unsuccessfully to a number of acting schools. “I didn’t know myself particularly well and knew nothing about auditioning. I was still trying to escape myself.” So instead of acting, she headed to USC in 1999 to study filmmaking. Then a freeway accident in March 2002 changed everything. She came home to Denver to rehab at Craig, then returned to California for spring semester the following year, with the help of a Swim with Mike scholarship. During those nine months back in Colorado, she was exposed to Phamaly, the all-disabled Denver acting company.
“I was still in a shell, very uncomfortable in my new reality. When I heard of Phamaly, I felt it wasn’t real theater and thought, ‘I don’t want to act in that company, I’m not disabled. I’m not that.’ Besides, performing was the last thing I wanted to do. How could I possibly channel a character through a body that was two-thirds paralyzed?”
But she stayed involved by volunteering summers with them between school years. When she graduated from USC and returned to Denver, she reluctantly decided to audition. Once cast and performing, there was no turning back. That’s not to say everything was gumdrops and lollipops. Only two years post-injury, she was still figuring out life on wheels.
By now Phamaly was on a par with other theaters in Denver. As one theater critic put it, “The first thing people notice is the disabilities. But when somebody starts to sing and you get into the story, suddenly you lose sight of the disabilities.”
Her first show with Phamaly was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She remembers rolling onto the stage and feeling embarrassed because she had friends and family in the audience. “While doing a musical number and dancing in my chair, I felt totally stupid, a joke. I looked over at Kevin, who has a TBI and can’t remember all the lyrics. But it didn’t matter to him. He was going full-out with a big smile on his face. That’s when something just snapped in me. I felt this switch — an epiphany — like, ‘who the fuck cares? This is who I am now.’ That’s when I decided theater was going to be my salvation. I realized I would find my way in the world, authentically, through theater.”